Divii: A searchable video dictionary

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A really useful tool for students to see vocabulary in context is the corpus. One of the difficulties of corpus results as well as dictionaries is explaining something that is very visual in nature such as movement. Also, since it is text based, you are unable to hear the pronunciation as well as any nuances to the language such as stress. An interesting online tool that searches transcripts from videos in a semi-corpus way is Divii. It is free and doesn’t require registration to use. One caveat is that it uses a number of video sources, so it may not always be appropriate for younger students. It should be fine for older students who probably will appreciate the various contexts instead of everything being so academic. Here is how it is works:

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  • Go to divii.org and type a search term in the ‘Search words here for video examples’ box. You can type in a single word or a phrase. Click on the search button or hit the ‘Enter’ key.

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  • You will be taken to your search results with a thumbnail of the video on the left and the text from a section of that video with the word or phrase in it. Click on the video you would like to watch and it will start to play, showing the transcript with the counter time.

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  • It will continue to move through the transcript in sections as it plays. Click on a section of the transcript to play that section or click on the video to pause it. Click anywhere outside of the video to get back to the search results.

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As you can see, it is fairly easy to use. Once again, it is something I would only use with adult learners based on some of the content I encountered along the way. There isn’t anything there that would persuade me away from using it altogether, but it is something to consider before using in class.

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Co-create an animated dictionary for language learners

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The idea of having a video-based dictionary for action vocabulary isn’t anything new, but I thought I would do a short guide on how to co-create an animated dictionary with your students using animated GIFs and Padlet.

Creating animated GIFs

  • You have two choices here: create your own videos or find royalty-free / public domain videos that you can use freely.
    • You could have your students create videos using cameras or phones and then upload them to a computer to play back. This can be a bit tricky since each device will have it’s own system of uploading videos, but if you have your own set at school or students know how to use their own devices, this can be a very effective way of having students negotiate the language or to discover new words on their own.
    • Public domain and royalty-free videos can be found online, but some sites are not as safe as others. Here are a few I recommend:
  • Once you have the video on your computer, you can start creating an animated GIF using the instructions I created here.

Creating your animated dictionary using Padlet

  • You will need to have a Padlet account. For more information on using Padlet, I have written a guide here.
  • Create a new pad using the instructions from the guide and give the link to the students.
  • Students visit the page and upload their GIFs.
    • They can either double-click anywhere on the Pad and then click on the up arrow button to choose the file from the computer.
    • They can also just drag-and-drop the file onto the Pad.

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  • Once uploaded, students move their mouse of the GIF to bring up the pencil icon at the top of the GIF. Click on the pencil to add the action name in the title box and a sample sentence showing its use in the description area. They then can click anywhere outside the GIF to get out of edit mode
  • Students can move the GIF by simply clicking-and-dragging it anywhere on the Pad. You could organize this any way you like.
  • Students can resize the GIF by dragging the corners of the image.
  • People can see the full-size image by clicking on the GIF.

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I have created a sample page that you can use to play around and try this out on your own. Please keep it clean. 🙂

Sample Padlet

EasyDefine: More than just defining multiple words at once

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There are a number of online dictionaries including an excellent one for English language learners from Macmillan. Another interesting tool is EasyDefine which will define a list of words on one page. This site also has a number of other tools that help in reviewing the definitions including a flashcard and quiz maker. Here is how it works:

Defining multiple words:

  1. Go to EasyDefine and make sure it is on the ‘Home’ tab.
  2. Type or copy in a list of words. Add a hard return after each word.
  3. Click on ‘generate at the bottom of the box and you definitions will appear in the box.
  4. Before clicking on ‘generate’ you can also change a few of the settings by clicking on ‘Advanced Options’ near the bottom of the box. This brings up a few options such as numbering, alphabetizing, the number of definitions per word, and hiding the parts of speech.
  5. Once you have the list of definitions, you can download the definitions as a Word document.
Extras:
  1. Once you have a list of definitions, you can click on the ‘Extras’ tab and you know have a choice of finding synonyms, creating an online quiz, downloading flashcards as a Word document, or creating a series of worksheets.
  2. Clicking on ‘Synonyms’ brings up a short list of synonyms within the box on the screen.
  3. Clicking on ‘Quiz Yourself’ brings up a list of quiz options that can be done online and are self-correcting.
  4. Clicking on ‘Generate Flashcards’ will create a download a Word doc that you can edit and print out.
  5. Clicking on ‘Generate Worksheets’ gives you a number of options for printable worksheets that can be shown as a webpage or downloaded as a Word document.
Quick definition:
  1. Click on the tab at the top of the page marked as ‘InstaDefine’ and you will be taken to a place where you can find a definition as you start to type with the synonyms listed below.

While the definitions may be difficult for intermediate or lower students, higher level students will find the InstaDefine option handy for when they are unsure of the spelling. Also, the self-marking aspect is great for students to review words. Students can create a list of words during the day and then review them on their own. Please note that there are some advertisements on the website. While I didn’t find any that were a problem so far, I would suggest using a browser plugin such as AdBlock.

Feel free to add your comments below, send me a tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the contact page on this website. Thank you!

Review: Online Thesaurus for English Language Learners | MacmillanDictionary.com

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I observed an IELTS preparation class last week and the teacher was talking with her students about paraphrasing when doing their writing assignments. She discussed the use of a thesaurus in helping students find synonyms to expand their vocabulary. Following the lesson, the teacher and I were discussing the use of a web-based thesaurus and I told her that I regularly use MacmillanDictionary.com in class as my favourite online dictionary and thesaurus.

After that conversation, I decided to investigate further to see if there were any other online thesauri that might be useful in the English language classroom. A quick search for thesaurus in Google came up with an unbelievable amount of thesauri, but after an hour or so of checking out the variety of options, I came to this conclusion: there are a lot of really poorly designed websites out there. Pop-up and display ads, poor layout, and complicated usage made most of them completely useless for my classroom. My search had verified that I had the correct decision from the beginning and felt secure in continuing my use of MacmillanDictionary.com as my main online dictionary and thesaurus for my classroom.

For those of you not familiar with the site, here are some of the main features.

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Simple layout: Macmillan has developed a really nice landing page that makes it easy for any level of learner to use. The search box is easily located in the centre of the page and has a tab for the dictionary (default tab) and the thesaurus. At the very top of the page is a single menu bar with drop-down options. Directly below the search bar are three boxes with links to the main features of the site. Further down the page are more detailed write-ups on how to make use of the site.

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Simple usage: When you start typing a word in the search box, a number of suggested words begin to appear below. This is extremely helpful for students who may have heard a word, but are unable to spell it. It also suggests related words and phrases such as phrasal verbs and compound adjectives. A search brings up a results page that shows the search box near the top of the page and the word in red directly below it. To the right of the word are as many as five red stars to indicate how common that word according to their corpi. Directly below that, it tells you what word type it is such as noun, adjective, verb, etc. It also has a link to take you to the definition of the word. There is also a box giving related entries in the thesaurus for that word. The next section gives a numbered list of definitions for the word and related synonyms. There is a red “more” link at the bottom of each list of synonyms which takes you to a page showing those same synonyms with one-line definitions. Back on the main search page, there is a list of common phrases using that the main word and possible related phrases that could be a replacement.

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Simple sharing: At the bottom of the page, there is a listing of all of the popular social media sites where students could share their new found knowledge with others, including those they are working with on an assignment. I have had students share it on a classroom Del.icio.us or Google Bookmarks classroom page so the rest of their classmates can learn along with them.

There is a lot more to this site than a dictionary and thesaurus. There is also an open dictionary where users can add their own words to a separate dictionary, much like a controlled Urban Dictionary. There is a word-of-the-day page, clickable words within the definition, and ways of integrating the dictionary into your own website. All of this is for free with minimal advertisements.

Give it a try, I think you will find that this is a great site for helping English language students develop their personal lexis and pronunciation skills.